Mobile Menu - OpenMobile Menu - Closed

Congressman Luis Gutierrez

Representing the 4th District of Illinois

Rep. Gutiérrez on Puerto Rico: “Life Goes On, Even When The Government Has Turned Its Back On You”

November 8, 2017
Press Release
“I should not have to give this speech almost two months after the storm. We should have accomplished much more. The people of Puerto Rico pretty much understand that President Trump doesn’t want to help them.”
Issues: 

Washington, DC – This morning on the floor of the House of Representatives, Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) reported on his third and latest relief trip to Puerto Rico bringing aid from the people of Chicago to the stricken island.  During his trip (Friday 11/3 – Monday 11/6), the Congressman visited several towns, including Jayuya and Loíza where he met with local mayors and community leaders.  He brought photographs from his most recent trip to illustrate his floor speech this morning.  The Congressman began his remarks by saying “I wish I could report that a lot of progress is being made, but I can’t.  It is still a disaster that is a stain on the reputation of the United States.”

The first picture was of a group of people by the side of a road near Jayuya washing clothes with spring water in a bucket using a toilet plunger.  The Congressman said, “This man is a police officer, but he is learning to make do, just like every other Puerto Rican.  Everywhere you go, you see Puerto Ricans making do.”

He continued:

On the one hand, when I am in Puerto Rico, I am confronted by the very best of mankind.  The people who are helping strangers, feeding their neighbors, and pitching in wherever they can.  On the other hand, when I am in Puerto Rico, I am confronted with the human tragedy of people who – like all of us -- depend on the government for basic assistance and help after a major disaster and have received almost nothing.  Yes, the damage is massive, but there is no task Americans cannot accomplish if we put our minds and our backs into it. 

Rep. Gutiérrez then showed a damaged Head Start center in Loíza and a destroyed road and bridge near Jayuya, describing the damage and the effort needed by Puerto Ricans, with help from the people of Chicago, to fix things.  He continued:

Mr. Speaker, I should not have to give this speech almost two months after the storm.  We should have accomplished much more.  The people of Puerto Rico pretty much understand that President Trump doesn’t want to help them.  And that the passports and documents they have that say “citizen of the United States” should have been printed with small print that says, yes, Puerto Ricans are citizens of the U.S. for the purposes of being drafted into war, but don’t come asking for help when you really need it.

His final photograph was from the wedding of two women on a beach, about which Rep. Gutiérrez said:

Puerto Ricans are learning to make do, just like these two young women who got married on the beach in Cerro Gordo, Vega Alta and let us take their picture.  Life goes on, even when the government has turned its back on you.

Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez is a Member of the House Judiciary Committee and the Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.  He was born in Chicago, but has lived in Puerto Rico at various points in his life.  He was in Puerto Rico this past weekend.

A video of the Congressman’s speech today is here: https://youtu.be/uOwEHWd-JdU

The text as prepared for delivery is here:

Floor Speech

November 8, 2017

Monday, I returned from my third trip to Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria devastated the island almost two months ago.

I wish I could report that a lot of progress is being made, but I can’t.  It is still a disaster that is a stain on the reputation of the United States.

Most places do not have power. 

Generators – the sound you hear humming in every corner of the island like metallic coquis – are running ragged from overuse.

In many places, the water is not on because the power is not on to pump it.  And drinkable water mixes with sewer water in many places. 

As you can see from this picture taken near Jayuya, people are tapping mountain springs and in this case, are using it mostly for laundry, thank goodness, because the mountain water in many places is contaminated from humans and animals. 

This man is a police officer, but he is learning to make do, just like every other Puerto Rican. 

Everywhere you go, you see Puerto Ricans making do.

So, think about your life without power, cell services, water, lights, fans, or in some cases food.

Imagine the dialysis patient or the elderly man in an electric wheelchair who uses oxygen tanks to breathe.  I met those people in Puerto Rico. 

How do you get to physical therapy or regular pre-natal visits when there are still roads and bridges down?

On the one hand, when I am in Puerto Rico, I am confronted by the very best of mankind.  The people who are helping strangers, feeding their neighbors, and pitching in wherever they can.

On the other hand, when I am in Puerto Rico, I am confronted with the human tragedy of people who – like all of us -- depend on the government for basic assistance and help after a major disaster and have received almost nothing.

Yes, the damage is massive, but there is no task Americans cannot accomplish if we put our minds and our backs into it. 

[Switching Photographs]

Mr. Speaker, this is the Head Start building in Loíza.  As you can see, the roof is torn up and there is metal sheeting that was blown around.

The people in Loíza are forming a brigade to rebuild the structure so that they can open up the Head Start program for pre-schoolers and one of the things I was doing in Loíza was bringing money to get them started, raised by the Puerto Rican Agenda from the people of Chicago.

Individuals in Chicago are investing in the well-being of people in Loíza they have never met.  And they are not calling in expensive contractors or companies from Montana – and they are not waiting for the folks from FEMA or the U.S. military.

They are not waiting for Donald Trump to grant Puerto Ricans a little more time now that he has made it clear he will not personally give them his “grade A-plus help” forever.

Nope.  The people of Chicago are getting help to the people of Puerto Rico before any official resources are coming to their rescue. 

It boggles the mind that it has come to this.

Here is another more difficult case, a bridge and a road were washed out by the storm.  This is near Jayuya, but it could be almost anywhere on the island. 

More than 6 weeks after the storm and…nothing.  Not even orange cones or a guard rail to keep people from driving into danger.

If you live up on the side of this hill, you are not going anywhere until something changes because that is the only way in or out.  The people of Puerto Rico are going to have to rebuild this on their own because the Army Corps of Engineers is missing in action.

Mr. Speaker, I should not have to give this speech almost two months after the storm.  We should have accomplished much more.

The people of Puerto Rico pretty much understand that President Trump doesn’t want to help them. 

And that the passports and documents they have that say “citizen of the United States” should have been printed with small print that says, yes, Puerto Ricans are citizens of the U.S. for the purposes of being drafted into war, but don’t come asking for help when you really need it.

And Puerto Ricans are coming to grips with how little they can expect from the President and his Administration.  They are finding ways to make do, just as the people of Chicago are making do by sending their own help in their own way.

It should not have to come to that, but it has.

[Switching Photographs]

Puerto Ricans are learning to make do, just like these two young women who got married on the beach in Cerro Gordo, Vega Alta and let us take their picture. 

Life goes on, even when the government has turned its back on you.

# # #